One of the common questions asked is why haven't the "moderate" Middle Eastern governments taken a harder stance against ISIS. Even Turkey, a NATO ally, kept the border rather porous for individuals to cross and join with ISIS, and resisted letting us use our own air strips within their country for strikes against them until the nutcases crossed the border to harass the Kurds. Turkey may hate the Kurds, but their own Kurds are their problem, not ISIS's, to deal with. Jordan as well, has armed their border, but not dared to cross it...but then again, Jordan itself hasn't actually seen a direct threat yet, in spite of their more secular attitudes to personal behavior compared to the hardline ISIS leadership.
Today I read a detail about Beruit that the media, even when finally mentioning that city at all, didn't say.
ISIS's target wasn't the city as a whole. ISIS didn't even target the (eastern) Christians in that city.
ISIS's targets were Shia. All of them. Village and family, it was a Sunni strike against Shiites, not a fundamentalist strike against moderates nor a Muslim attack against non-Muslims, which it would have been if the Christians' neighborhoods had been the target.
A Sunni strike against Shia.
Suddenly, a lot of things made sense.
Why did Turkey not care about these nutcases on their border, 'til they crossed it? Turkey is Sunni. Why does Jordan not dare cross the border to take these nutcases out? Jordan is Sunni.
Why does Saudi Arabia not get involved? The Saudi's are Sunni...and some would say they have been planning for and paying for this type of revolution for the better part of two centuries. Lest it be forgotten, in spite of being our 'allies', the Saudis are among the worst human rights record of any country in the world - being in charge of the human rights council at the UN is a HUGE insult to any sense of rationalism.
So if Turkey won't get in there, and Jordan won't get in there, and the Saudi's won't get in there, who is left? Who actually stands the most to lose by an increase in ISIS's power, especially if ISIS closes up a connection with the Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan?
Who has John Kerry been talking to for the last year and a half?
Iran is Shia. It is, with the loss of any degree of power in Iraq (which was only 60% Shia, and ruled by minority Sunni for several generations), the last Shia stronghold in the region. THAT is why we have been talking with them. THAT is why we have been encouraging the moderates in the country, helping them (from a polite distance, to avoid the impression we're forging another Shah) to wrestle political opinion away from the hard-liners that dominated the political landscape in the aftermath of Pahlavi's downfall.
Much as many refuse to acknowledge, there is a difference between the 30-something year olds currently asserting power and influence, and their 60-something year old hardline ancestors who are against the deal. The 30-somethings actually don't hate America. They fear us, as everybody should (we are insanely trigger happy, in spite of how much we won't admit it or acknowledge the consequences). They hate more what the situation is regarding the sanctions, but rightfully blame it on their earlier leadership than on us, and are aware that negotiating with us is the only way to end it. And that means asserting control away from the hardliners. And they're winning, which is the initial key take-away from the deal (the only Iranians against it are as hard-line conservative/reactionary as our own conservatives).
It means, for them, acknowledging that ISIS is a greater threat (BY FAR) than Israel is - armed anti-Shia nutcases on your doorstep is a MUCH bigger threat than a small country a thousand miles away, with its own internal front lines.
Even if for only a brief window, it is in our interests, and theirs, to unite against the ISIS threat.
Because right now, nobody else there will.
THAT is why the Iran deal is so important. Because unlike the previous administration, whose willful ignorance of the Sunni-Shia divide directly lead to the current situation, the current administration is well aware of that divide.
It, I think, is also why Obama is not looking for 'troops on the ground' right now. The Iranians won't get involved if they think our own trigger-happy (to their impression) troops are there, not caring about the differences between one Muslim and the next. Our conservative political rhetoric, and the history of friendly-fire incidents in both recent wars, betrays us there.
Now, if not treated carefully, does this run a risk to the Kurds or the Israelis? Of course it does. This is a VERY delicate situation, seeking to unite adversaries of such a long time, acknowledging the other historical foes they have. It is the other reason why we are talking with the moderates, the ones who might restrain themselves to just the situation at hand, rather than the hardliners (the first being that the hard-liners still hate us over the Shah, of course).
But even merely the threat of an Iran not pinned down by UN sanctions, allowed to re-arm (Putin's been looking for a large-scale market for his arms industry for several years now, as a means to help recover the dreadful Russian economy), may be enough to get Jordon to actually build up and step in, just to help hold the Iranians to their corner of the world and no further.
But there it is: a free-to-arm (non-nuclear) Iran is the game-changer to the ISIS situation that neither Jordan nor Turkey actually wants. If the moderate Sunni don't want a remilitarized Shia nation stepping over the Iraqi border to take out ISIS (and grab quite a bit of Iraqi and Afghanistan land in the process, concessions we'd likely have to give them after negotiations), they're going to have to get involved themselves for once.
Because Sunni-Shia still matters over there. A LOT. And for once, our administration is acknowledging that.